Tragedy in Absarokee

Recent Absarokee superintendent Dusty Sturm killed in UTV accident
By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, July 11, 2019

Courtesy photo

In this photo from 2014, Sturm is pictured on an Husky Wilderness Adventures backpacking trip.

Dustin Sturm, recent Absarokee Schools superintendent, was killed last week in what appears to be an U.T.V. accident.

Sturm, 51, failed to return from a weed spraying job in the Beaver Creek area Wednesday afternoon, July 3.

The Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office was contacted at 11:46 p.m. when friends could not find Sturm, according to Stillwater County Undersheriff Randy Smith and sheriff’s dispatch records.

Two deputies responded immediately and joined two other private parties who were already searching in U.T.Vs. The deputies drove as far as they could up South Beaver Creek Road. Search and Rescue (SAR) crews responded to the area at approximately 1:30 a.m. A deputy found Sturm at 3:21 p.m. on July 4 and requested “a lot of manpower” as Sturm and his U.T.V. were at the bottom of a steep incline, according to dispatch records. MHP was summoned to the scene

Investigators determined Sturm had apparently rolled his U.T.V. down a steep ravine. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A memorial service for Dusty Sturm will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 13, at the high school football field. A reception will follow in the high school gym.

A GOOD MAN

Sturm closed out a 7-year tenure as the Absarokee school superintendent at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

In 2018, Sturm was named the Montana Career and Technical Education Administrator of the Year for his dedication to career and technical education, securing funding for several CTE class projects. He also served as an assistant instructor for some adult education courses, and secured financial support for career and technical student organizations.

Three years into the job in Absarokee, Sturm, along with his wife Darcy and artist Tom Wolfe, launched the Husky Wilderness Adventures program, which involved taking groups of students on four-day backpacking trips in the Beartooth Mountains.

“Many of them have never been camping, fishing, hiking and live in the bestplace to do such activities,” Sturm told the News at the time of the trips. “I have always been involved in helping kids, within the school. My focus has turned to helping kids beyond that by taking them on adventures that could potentially be an experience that would change their outlook on life or at least, experience the outdoors in a way they never have before.”

The kids raved about the experience and the program continues today.

This week, Absarokee teacher Tim Zumbrun said the following about Sturm:

“As a staff and school community, we are mourning the tragic loss of Mr. Dustin Sturm, a great man and a great friend, who was taken from us way too early. Our hearts are heavy with sorrow and our thoughts are with his wife Darcy and her family, along with all who knew Dusty as a friend and colleague. He was a leader in our community and many communities before coming to Absarokee.  Behind the scenes, he did so many things for the benefit of our students, staff, parents and community.  Dusty valued life to its fullest and was a dedicated and passionate educator who held a special place in his heart for kids. Huskies Wilderness Adventures was just one example of his giving spirit.  He never asked for, nor expected any recognition.  We will miss him dearly and there is a void in our hearts and community. Together, we will heal. I am sure Dusty would expect us to do so.”

Absarokee teacher Gregg Feddes echoed Zumbrun's sentiments. 

"Dusty wanted the best for everyone he met. He was always willing to listen and would do anything to help.  He is one of the best people I have ever known," Feddes told the News.  "He left this world better than he found it and I am better for having known him. I just want to thank him for everything he did for me." 

A LIFE WELL LIVED

Sturm’s love for the outdoors did not come easy for him.

By age 46, he had undergone three liver transplants and had his entire colon removed.

The medical woes began at age 12.  When he was 21, he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis — a long-term, progressive liver and gallbladder disease.

Sturm’s first liver transplant came in 2004. A blood clot complication forced a second transplant. Eight years later, the bile ducts in his new liver grew constricted, landing him back on the transplant list for the third time.

In 2011, he received liver transplant number 3.

But the married father of two did not allow his medical conditions to define him. An avid outdoorsman who long enjoyed fishing and hunting, Sturm chose to look forward. He also believed God had kept him around for specific reasons — one of those being to help kids.

“I’m a Christian, and with that, feel the Lord has challenged me by enduring three transplants and sharing with others a passion for the outdoors and a love for life,” Sturm said in 2014.

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